Batman #655 started writer Grant Morrison’s “run” on the title Batman. Issues from #655 until this issue (#675) have run the gamut from unique, bizarre, bad, and awesome. Material has been pulled from older Batman stories, new characters have entered the panels, and Batman has had all sorts of trouble to deal with. I liked Morrison’s “Batman & Son” storyarc. I wanted to adore the “Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” storyarc, but instead I just sort of muddled through it. Issues #672 – 674 were…. odd and not altogether pleasant. However, this issue here seems to have taken most of the threads that Morrison was developing and it sort of brings together some of the mess. On the other hand, if you’re a critic, you could say that Morrison is dragging out these threads beyond their expiration date. I think to make a judgment you have to read beyond this issue and see where Morrison is going with this stuff.
This issue brings us the return of a thread we first met in issue #656, Jezebel Jet. She’s Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend and she is having supper with Bruce. She begins to express her frustration at Bruce’s disappearances and evasive personality. Suddenly, she flips out and starts hollering at him. To his credit, Bruce just sits there and patiently takes her emotive outburst. Jet wonders what Bruce is hiding and even accuses him of “being into S&M.” The panel that shows Bruce’s face when she says this is priceless – well done! It made me laugh out loud. Bruce cancels the tempura course of the meal.
I like the art throughout the issue. Its good dark, angular stuff. It does not impede the story and none of it is confusing or jumbled. However, something was bugging me as I read along. I thought it was the “art,” but I could not assert that because I actually liked the art. Then it dawned on me: its the inking. I really dislike the inking in this issue. It was done by Saleem Crawford. I haven’t really noticed his work before, but I really didn’t like the way he inked Bruce in this issue. There are other panels, too, that bugged me. It took away from the quality of Ryan Benjamin’s frames. I have to say that I rarely have much to say about inking – good or bad, so it was surprising to find that I disliked it this much.
Anyway, the background “narration” is given to us via Nightwing and Robin – who are conversing about Batman’s mental state and recent events while they chase down baddies. Its a fun aspect of Batman comics to witness serious conversations taking place during acrobatic aerial chases. I am glad Morrison and Benjamin give us this element. I never really know what to make of Nightwing and Robin, but I am developing a better familiarity of these characters as I read along.
Elsewhere, Talia is complaining about Bruce and Jezebel Jet’s relationship. Her tone is mocking but also contains hints of genuine sincere emotion. She has a few lines that amused me; for example “Why is he always so obvious? All these ridiculous women he woos and discards, along with their Bond Girl names.” Witty line, Morrison. Anyway, one might be led to believe that it is Talia’s men who interrupt Bruce and Jezebel’s supper – but its someone else, not following Talia’s orders. Damian, conversing with Talia, once again comes across as a wise adept young man when he says: “Someone is out to get my father.” Of course, Bruce fights the men who attempted to kidnap Jezebel. Finally, after beating the lead-criminal in the kitchen of the restaurant, he turns on Jezebel. Bruce snarls at her, displaying all the frustration and anger that he had previously succeeded in hiding and controlling. Seeing all of this, Jezebel “sees the light.” The last page of the issue is obviously one of those “this will change Batman comics” pages. Jezebel makes the connection: Bruce Wayne is Batman.
Finally, this, I feel, is the Grant Morrison greatness that a lot of readers are praising. In this issue, Morrison’s writing is witty, emotive, and storybuilding. He’s carrying several threads from previous arcs, giving us an enjoyable issue, and delving into the characters’ relationships.
The cover is one of those very good covers that at once shouldn’t surprise anyone and yet has that timeless, classic Batman-feel to it. Dark, raining, scowling image. With the smallest drop of blood on Batman’s knee. It’s a pin-up cover – one that if you see it in the store makes you want to buy the comic to find out what’s inside.